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Materials Science Research Lecture

Wednesday, October 18, 2023
4:00pm to 5:00pm
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Noyes 153 (J. Holmes Sturdivant Lecture Hall)
From saving pharmaceuticals to saving priceless historical artefacts: understanding nanostructure with x-rays and algorithms
Simon Billinge, Professor, Columbia University,

Refreshments at 3:45pm outside lecture hall.


Nanoparticles, nanoporous materials and nanostructured bulk materials are at the heart of next generation technological solutions in sustainable energy, effective new pharmaceuticals and environmental remediation. A key to making progress is to be able to understand the nanoparticle structure, the arrangements of atoms in the nanoparticles and nanoscale structures. Also critical is understanding the distribution of the nanoparticles and how they change in time as devices run and reactions take place. We use advanced x-ray, neutron and electron scattering methods to get at this problem. I will talk about these methods and show some recent success-stories in the fields of sustainable energy, environmental remediation and cultural heritage preservation. However, I will also discuss the fundamental limitations on our ability to extract information from the data and how we are now turning to machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques to give more insights.

More about the Speaker:

Prof. Billinge has more than 25 years of experience developing and applying techniques to study local structure in materials using x-ray, neutron and electron diffraction including the development of novel data analysis methods including graph theoretic, artificial intelligence and machine learning approaches. He earned his Ph.D in Materials Science and Engineering from University of Pennsylvania in 1992. After 13 years as a faculty member at Michigan State University, in 2008 he took up his current position as Professor of Materials Science and Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics at Columbia University and held a joint position of Physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory between 2008 and 2022.

Prof. Billinge has published more than 350 papers in scholarly journals. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the Neutron Scattering Society of America, a former Fulbright and Sloan fellow and has earned a number of awards including the 2022 Distinguished Powder Diffractionist Prize of the European Powder Diffraction Conference, the 2018 Warren Award of the American Crystallographic Association and being honored in 2011 for contributions to the nation as an immigrant by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. He is Section Editor of Acta Crystallographica Section A: Advances and Foundations. He regularly chairs and participates in reviews of major facilities and federally funded programs.

For more information, please contact Jennifer Blankenship by email at [email protected].